A relentless second half Colchester United display tripped up Stevenage in the First Round of the FA Youth Cup, after Yasin Arai had opened the scoring for Jorden Gibson’s Under 18s.
After last season’s Third Round penalty shootout exit at the hands of Category One opponents Aston Villa in December, Stevenage Under 18s were hoping to improve on the preceding cup run, starting at home to Colchester United.
Key names such as Max Granville and Yasin Arai had already been named in the first team squad this season, adding experience to the youthful Boro eleven. Alex Aitken started in goal behind a back four of Morgan Mahoney, Sam Dreyer, Jack Wilson and Kwadwo Bugyei-Kyei. A midfield three of Alfie Williams, Lewis Lynn and Max Granville filled the middle of the park, with Yasin Arai and Cain Keller either side of Cian Halpin.
It was the perfect start for Stevenage and especially Yasin Arai. Jack Wilson played the ball long towards the target of Cian Halpin up to, who flicked on graciously into the path of Yasin Arai. The nippy winger then took a touch to beat his man and cut in onto his stronger right foot, before coolly slotting into the far corner past Ted Collins.
Just a minute later, and Colchester were back level. Disappointing from a Stevenage point of view but almost a carbon copy of the opener. Harvey Sayer picked the ball up in a wide position on the left, before cutting inside onto his right and firing past Alex Aitken between the Stevenage sticks.
Both sides looked a good match for each other, as the game anticipated a touch of magic to drive either team to victory.
On the half hour mark, Colchester had a duo of chances. Firstly, Aitken’s stop fell into the path of Samson Tovide, before a last ditch Stevenage block kept the ball away from the open goal. Then, it took a fantastic sliding tackle from skipper Sam Dreyer inside the Stevenage box to deny Tom Stagg putting the visitors in front after the forward broke through the defensive line.
Chances for either side were then few and far between as the game closed towards the break. Cain Keller had Stevenage’s next big chance, after a marauding forward run from full back Morgan Mahoney set up the attacker inside the box, only for Ted Collins to make a smart save to keep the score level.
Half-time came and it looked as if the result could go either way.
Immediately after the restart, Colchester had completed the turn around. Electric forward Samson Tovide, who had caused Stevenage some issues in the first half, got his goal just minutes into the second. A threaded through ball split the home side’s defence in two and allowed Tovide to break through on goal, and made no mistake to slide the ball into the net.
Matters were made worse for Stevenage five minutes later, as Samson Tovide doubled his tally. It was now an uphill battle for Jorden Gibson’s young men, and with the introduction of Archie Tamplin and Teddy Stevenson, they looked to get back in the game.
Alfie Williams’ looping free-kick caused a worry for Colchester stopper Ted Collins, when the ball almost dropped into the far corner – but for a good tipping save to keep the ball out.
Luke Middleton was introduced with less than twenty minutes to play, before Stevenage were handed another hurdle as Alex Aitken saw red. The goalkeeper had rushed off his line to clear a through ball and deny Tovide a hat-trick, but the Colchester forward reached the ball first as Aitken took down his man.
New introduction Teddy Stevenson had been playing up front since coming on, but swapped his shooting boots for a pair of goalkeeping gloves as Stevenage had already made three substitutions.
Harvey Sayer stood over the free-kick on the edge of the box, and confidently blasted the ball past Stevenson to put the game to bed.
It was a tough second half for Stevenage as Colchester came out all guns blazing, while Stevenage could not make the most of their first half chances and exited the FA Youth Cup at the First Round.